Aaron Kilback has been on the road in recent weeks reaching places like Dease Lake, B.C., to provide internet service through satellite link. (Aaron Kilback / YodelMe) A small B.C. company hopes its portable wi-fi technology will be adopted by emergency services after what it calls a successful first run near the Alkali Lake wildfire in northern B.C.
The five-person company called YodelMe provides internet access from anywhere. It uses small devices called "Explorers" which create a wi-fi hotspot and send data to a satellite.
The company has lately been working with the Tahltan First Nation in Dease Lake and Telegraph Creek, B.C., where wildfires have forced evacuations. The communities have no cellular or data service.
"It gives them 100 per cent coverage, no matter where they are," said YodelMe CEO Aaron Kilback, about those using the system.
The company’s satellite connection service launched last year. So far, YodelMe has had a few pilot projects testing the system, including work with the BC Wildfire Service and BC Corrections.
The devices were also used last year in Penticton, B.C., to help coordinate flood relief. Working with Tahltan Nation
YodelMe doesn’t have a contract with the BC Wildfire Service or Emergency Management BC. The company has been hired by the Tahltan Nation’s development corporation to work in Dease Lake and Telegraph Creek. Aaron Kilback (at rear, seated, in check shirt) has been working with the Tahltan Nation to provide communications related to wildfires. He is shown here during a community update last month, when people heard news that a nearby fire had grown. (Philippe Morin/CBC) Kilback says the service already proved useful to local emergency services, as a VHF radio system used by RCMP was damaged by the Alkali Lake fire and could not be used. Another radio system used by B.C.’s Ministry of Forestry, Lands and Natural Resources was also damaged and only worked intermittently. "Because the technology is new, we’ve wanted opportunities to deploy and prove we can do what we said we could do. Working with the Tahltan, we were able to do that." Kilback said his satellite system has already helped with one medical emergency as a firefighter on the line was informed his wife had fallen ill in Dease Lake.
"Typically that person would not have found out until 12 or 24 hours later," he said. ‘First real test’ in a wildfire situation
Working near Alkali Lake has been YodelMe’s "first real test" working around a wildfire, says Kilback.
"Because the technology is new, we’ve wanted opportunities to deploy and prove we can do what we said we could do. Working with the Tahltan, we were able to do that," Kilback said. While satellite modems are not themselves a new invention, Kilback says his company has been able to reduce the cost of transmissions by compressing data. (Philippe Morin/CBC) While satellite modems are not themselves a new invention, Kilback says his company has been able to reduce the cost of transmissions by compressing data.
The service allows crews to use regular cell phones to connect with the outside world, though they can still use walkie-talkies or other means to communicate with each other in the field.
Another feature the company offers is an emergency beacon which is broadcast if the wearer fails to indicate they are safe.
Kilback says he hopes the company will find clients in law enforcement, the oil and gas sector or other groups working in remote locations.
"I’ve tried SPOTs, ‘inReach’s in the past, satellite phone — and the experience was poor. So we’ve tried to improve the situation," he said.
Firefighters continue to work in Telegraph Creek this week. The chief of the […]
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